Masonry scare triggers warning to city landlords

Crumbling masonry on buildings around one of Bristol’s premier shopping and retail locations has triggered a spate of worried calls to leading city commercial property agents Colliers International.

This follows a recent incident where masonry from an ornamental façade fell from a building, through a glass canopy and landed on a busy shopping street. Bristol City Council have written to occupiers requesting details of what measures have been put in place to ensure a similar incident won’t happen again.

Building consultancy expert Keith Godsmark urged  landlords and tenants to act now to ensure  their buildings are properly inspected and any remedial works undertaken to protect the public from similar incidents.

He said: “The buildings in the affected area around Queens Road are of a similar age and design – as well as incidents of masonry falling on to footpaths we have been told of incidents where workmen have reported chunks of masonry literally coming away in their hands.

“Landlords and tenants alike need to be aware of the legal obligations imposed on them. Those who have a duty to maintain buildings need to show that they have, in so far as is reasonably practical, put in place measures to regularly inspect their façades and undertake such repairs as are necessary to ensure the safety of the public.

“It is vital landlords and tenants are aware of their responsibilities and that they continuously monitor their buildings for wear and tear.

“The other aspect to bear in mind is that we are not just talking about period buildings.  The regulations equally apply to modern buildings as much as ornate facades around some of Bristol’s best-loved shopping streets.”

Great returns from Clifton hotel business

New owners are being sought for the  Victoria Square Hotel in Clifton.

On the market with Colliers International with a price tag of £1,750,000, the stone built Grade II-listed luxury hotel, which dates back to the 1860s, overlooks a leafy square which was once home to cricketing legend Dr W G Grace.

The hotel is easy to run as it serves the bed and breakfast market and offers considerable potential for further development, according to Colliers International hotels director Simon Wells.

He said: “The Victoria Square Hotel consists of two buildings in a superb leafy location in the heart of Clifton and it is still only a mile or so into the city centre. It is currently operated largely as a bed and breakfast hotel, so it is ideal to be run under management, as at the moment, or by owners who can generate an even better bottom line. One look at the books will tell you this property offers serious investment potential.”

The present owners, who own a couple of hotels, bought the Victoria Square in 2008, recognising that it is perfectly situated for a year-round business rather than a lifestyle B&B. In the last three years they have upgraded the electrics in one building, created the bar, refurbished the dining room and have worked their way through the letting bedrooms.

Simon Wells said: “Clifton’s deserved reputation as the premier residential and leisure area of Bristol means there are scarce opportunities to own hotels of this size in the area.

Location is the key to the hotel’s success and future and there can surely be few better than this.

“Clifton has its own vibrant restaurant/bar life so there is no need to run a restaurant if you don’t want to”.

There are 41 letting bedrooms in two neighbouring detached properties.  The hotel can accommodate around 80 and currently trades under the Best Western banner, so is equipped to a good standard.

There is some car parking too. Over the road is the charming Victoria Square Gardens and a short walk across to the far corner brings you out amongst the busy local shops and boutiques.

The Victoria Square Hotel is on the market at £1,750,000 for the virtual freehold and leasehold properties complete with goodwill and trade and represents a genuine opportunity to buy an easily run hotel that can give a great return on capital.

“The present owners believe that they should focus on their larger hotel instead, which gives buyers the opportunity to acquire a strong business that could certainly do even better as occupancy has been below what one might expect and it still turns over nearly £700,000 net of VAT.”

For further information please contact Simon Wells on 0117 917 2000.

Refit rethink does away with ‘desk job’ downtime

New  time-saving procedures which will spruce up  office environments with the minimum of disruption to staff  have been rolled out as part of an extensive refurbishment at the Lafarge HQ in Gordano near Bristol.

Bristol Based Premier Office Solutions partnered with their flooring contractor Rudge Brothers and James to replace  worn  flooring while keeping office disruption to an absolute minimum.

To enable this to happen, Rudge Brothers and James used their specially designed desk lifting equipment to ensure a seamless changeover outside normal office hours.

The high–tech-lifting equipment is able to raise the furniture off the ground by just 50mm allowing the carpet tiles to be replaced without  unplugging any of the computer equipment or telephones. This saves time, money and energy as it enables staff to remain at their desks throughout the refit period without any loss of productivity.

Rudge Brothers and James operations maanager  Jim Heal said : “The system not only cuts down on disruption but also saves up to 50 per cent on costs, two of the main factors which might persuade a company against replacing worn floor coverings.”

All the old carpet tiles will be taken to a special recycling centre and turned into backing material.

Lafarge provides plasterboard products to the building industry and is respected for its focus on safety, innovation and sustainability.

Lafarge’s Christelle Dobson commented: “We were keen to keep any disruption and downtime to a minimum by using the desk lifting system, this allowed us to come in every morning to find the carpet had been fitted to another area without us even having to unplug any of the IT equipment and phones let alone reposition any of the furniture. The POS team were extremely helpful and flexible.

“They space planned and managed the desk changes, general office moves and co-coordinated our refurbishment in a very professional manner”.

Premier Office Solutions also supplied space planning, new furniture and a managed office move together with cabling alterations during evenings and weekends to further smooth the office refit.

Jim Heal concluded: “LaFarge and Premier Office Solutions recognized the benefits immediately when we suggested of utilizing our desk lifting system and to recycle their old tiles. We have now carried out three projects this year so far using this system due to its many advantages over physically moving staff, their desks, paperwork, computers and phones this is set to continue to be a growth area of business.”

For any further information: Jim Heal on 0117 980 3990 or go to www.rudgebrothersandjames.co.uk

People’s Pub’ in vibrant Cheltenham town centre is sold

Ideal people’s local The Bath Tavern in Cheltenham has been snapped up by local businessman Peter Glanville in a deal brokered by Colliers International.

The vibrant town centre pub will be run by leaseholder David Leith, who has experience of running bars in the West Indies,  with new owner Peter Glanville offering help and advice from his company headquarters at the nearby Cheltenham Cheese Company.

Peter Glanville has run businesses in the food services sector for more than 30 years and brings considerable local knowledge to the new project.

He said: “I’ve always liked the Bath Tavern as I used to be friendly with the family that owned it back in the 1960s. It’s fantastic to be going back as owner as it has always had a really good vibe in the city centre.”

Peter said the intention was to operate to the same business model as Cheltenham Cheese, offering enthusiastic customer service and good quality food.

“Regulars needn’t worry about any major changes – we intend to offer traditional pub grub with a few  extras to attract new customers from town centre businesses alongside tourists and the regulars who have supported the Bath Tavern throughout.”

Colliers International hotels director Peter Brunt said he was delighted the Bath Tavern – one of his own personal favourite pubs – had found a new buyer so quickly.

He said: “Many people regard the Bath Tavern as the pub we would like to have as our local. As a business it offers a simple but successful formula which Peter and David will build on.”

The Grade II listed pub was built in the early 1800s and  boasts ground and first floor accommodation over a cellar.  The pub has a single lounge bar with some exposed timber boards,   two stone fireplaces and an oak bar servery.

Peter Brunt concluded: “The pub and hotel sector locally continues to defy national trends which is encouraging healthy interest in new properties coming on to the market.

“The prompt sale of the Bath Tavern  proves once again that potential owners can still be found for good businessses in the best locations.”

New Hotel scheme for Bridgewater gets approval

A new 80-bedroom hotel proposed for the Eastover district of Bridgwater is to go ahead after planners approved the scheme.

Issues regarding parking were resolved resulting in Sedgemoor District Council giving the green light for the project which will bring much needed jobs and wider investment to Bridgwater.

Although Sedgemoor District Council previously recommended approval for the new hotel at Eastover the planning committee deferred its decision in order to clarify the car parking provision.

The building, which has been designed by local firm Key Architecture, comprises an 80-bed hotel with associated parking, restaurant and bar as well as two ground floor commercial units to complement existing uses on Eastover.

James Edwards, planning specialist from Colliers International who has advised DC Homes and Investments on the project said: “This is fantastic news for Bridgwater. The building of this new hotel will act as a catalyst for regeneration in the area.

“We have worked closely with Council highways, planning and economic development teams to bring forward this proposal. Council officers have been very supportive of the scheme.

“We will now look forward to this next phase of development which will bring about a significant improvement to this part of the town centre, creating a landmark gateway building which sits well with the Council’s aspirations to revitalise Bridgwater through its Vision Initiative.

“This site has been derelict for some time and it will be a massive boost for Bridgwater town centre and specifically Eastover – which has struggled in recent years due to shop closures.

“It will also provide new employment opportunities for local people as well as quality town centre visitor accommodation. Bridgwater has a real buzz about the place at present and I think this new hotel can only help.”

Bristol’s flatlining offices sector ‘should improve by end of year’

Office sector analysts at Colliers International are predicting flatlining city centre take-up will begin to rise by the end of the year.

National offices director James Preece said the large number of enquiries being processed this summer should result in improved performance by the beginning of 2013.

He said: “Overall the office market has not performed as well as the first half of 2011 with take-up around 13 per cent down at 338,757 sq ft. The City Centre has struggled with a lack of large and Grade A transactions, whilst the out of town market is currently on a par with the first half of 2011.”

City Centre Q2 take-up is roughly the same as Q1 at 96,152 sq ft, but up 18 per cent on the same quarter of 2011.

There were just two  transactions above 10,000 sq ft in Q2, the  long leasehold sale of 53-55 Queen Charlotte Street (23,077 sq ft) to Foscombe and the freehold sale of Trelawney House, Surrey Street (20,785 sq ft) to Bristol Rental Properties.

The only Grade A transaction was the letting to Towry Law of the part third floor of Portwall Place.

James Preece said: “The City Centre continues to be dominated by sub 5,000 sq ft transactions, which made up 82 per cent of the deals in Q2.”

Grade A quoting rents remain stable due to a relatively low level of supply at £27-£28 psf but with attractive incentives available still.

Good Grade B rents are around £18-£20 psf, with lower Grade B at £10 psf.

Meanwhile out of town take-up totalled only 46,894 sq ft in Q2 2012, down 55 per cent on the previous quarter and down 40 per cent on the same quarter of 2011.

The largest out-of-town letting was Jelf Group agreeing a new lease on Hillside Court, Bowling Hill, Chipping Sodbury (24,350 sq ft).

“The out-of-town market has also been dominated by sub 5,000 sq ft transactions, which made up 91 per cent of the take-up. There were no Grade A deals in Q2.”

He concluded: “The Bristol office market reflects current economic conditions being slower than the first half of 2011. The City Centre has been most affected due to a lack of large deals and grade A transactions. The out-of-town market is behaving in a similar way to the start of 2011 in terms of overall square footage transacted, however there is still a lack of large transactions here as well.”

Persistence pays off at unique Bath development

Thirteen new homes are to be built on the former Lime Grove School site at Bathwick following a deal brokered by Colliers International.The site – which lies between Widcombe and Bathwick near the Kennet and Avon canal – has been empty for five years and will now be developed by Bloor Homes.

Chris Dawson, Director of development consulting at Colliers International in Bristol, said they were delighted the future use of the brownfield site had been resolved.

He said: “The progress of this site typifies development site disposals in Bath – where strong purchaser demand is frequently  tempered by what can be achieved in planning terms given the need to design homes which respect Bath’s World Heritage status and other conservation issues.”

Marketing by Colliers International Bristol in 2010/11 generated strong interest, from a range of residential and quasi-residential occupiers and developers.

The successful purchaser, Bloor Homes, submitted an initial planning application for 20 homes on the site but were refused permission. A revised proposal for 13 homes was granted planning permission earlier in June and the long running sale completed.
Within walking distance of Bath city centre, the site was formerly home to a special school which was closed five years ago when three schools were merged to create the new purpose built Three Ways School at Odd Down.

Bloor is planning to build two, two-bedroom homes and eleven, four-bedroom homes, all benefitting from garage and parking.

Mark Mitchard of Bloor Homes said: “Brownfield sites in the centre of Bath are few and far between and this is an excellent opportunity to add some much needed housing stock into a very popular residential area.

“The Bathwick/Widcombe area is a thriving community with excellent facilities and services.”

“Just a few minutes walk via the footbridge across the River Avon from the railway station, or along the riverside path from the Recreation Ground, the area boasts excellent eating and shopping, beautiful walks and spectacular sceneries. We are confident there will be significant interest in these new homes.”

Brakspear swoops on iconic Cotswolds hotel

Reputed to be England’s oldest Inn The Royalist in Stow-on-the-Wold has been bought by  Brakspear   in a deal brokered by Colliers International.

The deal means both the Royalist and its partner hotel The Grapevine on the opposite side of the road can look forward to brighter futures under new ownership after spending some time on the market.

Colliers International hotels director Peter Brunt, who handled both deals, said he was delighted the iconic premises were back in  business serving the lucrative Cotswolds tourist trade.

He said: “The Royalist represented fantastic value for money. A superb hotel in a prime Cotswolds location proved  an opportunity not to be missed.”

Based in the South East, new owners  Brakspear  have 144 tenanted pubs.
The stunning grade II listed, 14-bedroom hotel has been fully modernised  and offers an award-winning restaurant as well as a popular gastro pub, the Eagle and Child.
Although the listing suggests sixteenth or seventeenth century, parts of the building are reputed to form part of a refuge dating back to 947AD   built on the Fosse Way by a Saxon Duke called Aethelmar.

Peter Brunt said: “Whatever its origins, the Royalist is the archetypcal Cotswolds hotel with oodles of old world charm.

“But it has been stylishly refurbished in recent years to give it a contemporary update ideally suited to this superb location.”

Trade is   almost exclusively from tourist visitors who continue to flock to the Cotswolds hot-spot.

“The Cotswolds are a magnet to visitors throughout a long tourist season and for weekend visitors virtually all year round.  The recent owners bought the Grapevine Hotel just over the road in 2003 and acquired the Royalist a few years later, recognising that it appealed to a different, younger market.”

Just across the road from the Royalist,   The Grapevine has been bought by hotel entrepreneurs Elaine and Martyn Booth, who are finalising plans for a major overhaul of their latest acquisition.

Peter Brunt concluded: “Having traded in the area for many years the Cotswolds remain very close to our hearts and I believe this is reflected in the high levels of business we are continuing to achieve in the area.

“It’s great to see these two classic Cotswold hostelries back in business in what remains one of the prime tourist destinations in the country. Other opportunities in the region are available to tempt disappointed would-be buyers of the Grapevine and the Royalist.”

All enquiries should be directed to  Peter Brunt of Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.